Saturday, March 21, 2009

We're Not Going to Run Out...

... Not of lithium, not of anything else (gas2.0). A useful, if not particularly timely reminder:

In short, the upper limit on most mineral resources is, for all practical purposes, unbounded, and more importantly, the scaling factor on such resources is toward geometric growth of reserves. That is, to say, if you double the price, you don’t double the amount of available resource — you 5x, 10x, 20x, 100x it. If you halve the production cost due to advancing technology, again, you don’t double the reserves; you increase it by orders of magnitude. The scaling factors are thus greatly biased in favor of continuing production, as was demonstrated in the Simon-Ehrlich Wager.

This is the great lie of reserves figures; reserves figures for a resource reflect only upon the amount of that resource that can be produced at current prices with current technology. This applies to virtually any resource. If you were in Namibia in the 1980s and were only willing to pay a tenth of a penny per gallon for water, there wouldn’t be much I could have sold you. But if you had been willing to pay several cents a gallon, I could have sold you all the oceans in the world’s worth due to desalination. And today, thanks to advancing technology, I could do that for half a penny per gallon or less.

It feels a bit silly posting this as resources prices have been plummeting everywhere though a few months ago, there was concern that we would ultimately be trading our dependence on oil, that relies on the greed of despotic governments, with a dependence on lithium, relying on questionable governments like Bolivia (IHT). Then again, I suppose it's also equally silly that there are those who continue to push an environmentalist agenda even if it means restricting future innovation and economic growth (developing real, sustainable solutions to our problems).

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